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The Power of "Limited Liability": Transnational Communities and Cross-border Governance


Quack,  Sigrid
Grenzüberschreitende Institutionenbildung, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Djelic, M.-L., & Quack, S. (2011). The Power of "Limited Liability": Transnational Communities and Cross-border Governance. In C. Marquis, M. Lounsbury, & R. Greenwood (Eds.), Communities and Organizations (pp. 73-109). Bingley: Emerald.

While going through a revival in sociology and business studies, the concept of communities, as used in those disciplines, appears to confront, in an unresolved tension, the development of differentiated and transnationally interconnected modern societies. We argue that there is a need not only to "rediscover" but in fact also to "renew" the notion of community. Building on insights from classical sociology, we propose a definition of transnational communities as social groups emerging from mutual interaction across national boundaries, oriented around a common project or "imagined" identity. Transnational communities are not static structures but fluid and dynamic processes. They are constructed through symbolic or "imagined" proximity rather than through physical propinquity. More often than not, they are "communities of limited liability" rather than the expression of permanent ascriptive markers. Finally, transnational communities go well beyond the provision of local protection and solidarities as they engage in different kinds of transnational activism. This chapter compares bottom-up and top-down patterns of transnational community development, exploring in both cases the role of those communities in the dynamics of transnational governance. We propose that transnational communities impact cross-border governance in at least six different ways. They contribute to the framing of a governance problem space. They allow the mobilization of collective action while also serving as public arenas. They foster preference transformation. They directly participate in rule-setting while also playing a key role when it comes to monitoring and control. In conclusion, we identify key directions for further research.